1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nicholas (Russian Grand Duke)

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NICHOLAS (Nikolai Nikolayevich), (1856- ), Russian Grand Duke, grandson of the Tsar Nicholas I. and first cousin of the Tsar Alexander III., was born Nov. 6 1856. As a junior officer he passed through the General Staff College. During the war with Turkey in 1877-8 he was on the General Staff, and won the Cross of St. George for his courage and energy during the crossing of the Danube near Zimnitza. His further military service was passed in the Guard Hussar regiment of which he became commander in 1884. He then commanded a brigade and, in 1900, the 2nd Guard Cavalry Division. His brilliant capacities assured his rapid advancement. At the manoeuvres of 1890 he already commanded four cavalry divisions, and in 1895 he became Inspector-General of the Russian cavalry. He held this post for ten years, a period which is regarded as a bright epoch in the history of the Russian cavalry. With a firm hand he carried through the reform of the cavalry schools, the cavalry reserve, the cavalry remount service, and improved the method of instruction and direction of the cavalry units. In 1902 he was selected to command the Russian forces in case of a war with Germany. On the creation of the Council of National Defence in 1905, the Grand Duke was appointed its President, and the same year he received the command of the Guards and of the St. Petersburg Military District. In 1908 he left the Council of National Defence.

At the outbreak of the World War the Grand Duke was nominated to the Supreme Command of the Russian armies. Thus suddenly called on to assume the highest responsibility, the Grand Duke undertook it under particularly difficult conditions. He had to work with people with whom he had never worked before, and who were almost unknown to him. Since 1909 he had not taken part in the preparatory defence of the country; the principal work, after mobilization, the deployment of the armies, had been done without him, without his ideas. In fulfilling a plan not formed by himself he was at first overcome by the force of events. But in the later development of operations after the first battles his personal will and generalship were able to assert themselves, notably in the transfer of operations to the left bank of the Vistula in Oct. 1914. In the campaign of 1915, hampered as he was by the want of material resources, he was unable to maintain the front of the Narew-Vistula-San-Carpathians against the formidable effort of the Germans and Austrians, but, heavy as were the losses of the Russian army, he managed to withdraw it without anywhere incurring a Sedan, to a line which, substantially, it maintained throughout 1916 and 1917. In August 1915, the Tsar having assumed personal command on the main front, the Grand Duke was sent to the Caucasus as governor-general and commander-in-chief. Here, with Yudenich's assistance, he carried out the successful offensive campaigns of Erzerum and Trebizond, and his work contributed greatly to relieve the situation of the Allies in the East. After the Revolution he retired to his villa in the Crimea, where he remained until its occupation by the Bolshevik forces in 1918.